What hath Mel and Betty wrought?
The destruction of Shanna, a Texas girl
by Shanna 4/12/05


Shanna and her older brother were adopted into a fine home. They were trained to be good and proper kids but Shanna started having mood swings after her periods began. Some say that is a part of growing up. An older girl friend introduced her to alcohol; a secret boy friend gave her pot. She ran away for three days. One day her parents took her to a drug rehab saying they would be right back. It was the first time they had ever lied to her. She was in Straight-Dallas where she underwent the special treatment. Finally her parents took her out. The lady at the psych ward counted 54 cuts on her arms. The TV was on and kids were watching it! Are we allowed to watch television she asked. After Straight her drug of choice was carbon monoxide, the kind you get from an automobile exhaust, but that failed suicide attempt just got her right back into a mental hospital. Next time she tried her dad's rifle but the bullet just grazed her head. Today Shanna is happily married with a great husband and two kids of their own and her daughter from a previous marriage. But she constantly lives in fear, locks doors over and over again, and sometimes thinks about suicide. Shanna has asked that we use her full name but we have decided against it.
I was put into foster care when I was born in 1973. I was adopted in 1974 to a higher middle class republican family who had already adopted a son that was 4 years older than I. My brother was very quiet and isolated himself a lot. I was raised with direction and stability. I grew up in the Methodist church in Midland Texas. I went to church with some of the wealthiest people in Midland, including George Bush. I was taught to walk, eat and talk the way that a proper woman should. My brother was a perfect “A” honor roll child and I was expected to follow in his footsteps. I had a hard time keeping my grades up in school but my parents were quick to get me into the Sylvan learning center to help keep me the proper woman I should be. My grandmother lived with us and she had emphysema, I would sit and talk to her for hours in her room every night. Every summer we would take vacations visiting places like Walt Disney World, Disney Land, Florida islands, we even visited the White house. I have been to almost every state. I was one of the youngest children to master the art of playing hand bells. My soccer team won the state championship. I played the piano. I wanted to be the perfect child. Although we got handed all this wonderful stuff, my father was very big on earning your own way in life. In his own mind we were poor. We did chores to earn money and if the chores were not done properly (white glove inspection) we did not get any money.

Punishment at our home was being spanked with a wooden spoon, a belt or with their hands. Groundings came later when we were older. If we cried, we got sent to our rooms, to teach us it was not appropriate. We had to eat all our food before we could ask to be excused from the table. I would watch him pick off fungus stuff off the top of foods and breads, when I would make a bad face he would tell me it was only a form of penicillin.  My father would call us stupid and my brother he would call him turkey. My brother was clumsy and would miss his mouth with his fork and would trip over his own feet. I was always starving for my brothers attention. When my brother hit puberty I was 9 years old so when he started sexually experimenting on me, I was at least pleased that he was giving me some sort of attention. This went on for about a year.

When I was 12 years old me cerebellum swelled. I could not walk sit up or even talk. After what I think was about a week, my mother took me to a doctor, it became a team of doctors. Nobody could figure out why my brain had swelled. They were fixing to take a portion of my skull off so my brain had room to swell more if needed. They noticed that the swelling was going down so they put off the surgery. I asked my mother later why she didn’t take me to the doctor sooner and she said "I had no way to get you to the car, I could not lift you." On my 13th birthday, in the summer of 1986 the grandmother that had lived with us for 6 years died. Later in the fall my other grandmother died on my mother’s birthday. My soccer team split up and I had no more outlets for my feelings.

The next year I started my period and my feelings started to get out of control. I would cry very easily and it became difficult to hold in my feelings and emotions because feelings were not allowed. At home I started to show my feelings even though I new it was not allowed and it was considered disrespectful. I did not care to be perfect anymore. I was angry. I was tired of not being good enough. I started writing hateful things about my life and my parents. My friends started to change. My mother thought I was satanic. I had a friend that was 4 years older than I and she introduced me to alcohol. I got a boyfriend that introduced me to pot. I started sneaking out, disrespecting my parents and skipping church. I ran away for three days. I had turned our “Leave it to Beaver” family upside down.

My parents recorded my phone calls. They had people come in and do an exorcism. They had police try and talk some sense into me. They tried to do things to fix me but they could not find the solution.

On December 23, 1987 my father’s birthday, I was placed into a nightmare. We went to visit my uncle in Dallas. My parents told me that we would go visit a counselor. I was OK with it. We went into what I thought was going to be a building with offices. We went into a room and my parents say, "We are going to go get some lunch for all of us, we will be right back!"  Two girls take me into the next room. They start asking questions. I have nothing to hide so I answer them. I tell them, "my parents should be back by now" and they say, "no”, that they are not coming back."  I didn’t understand. My parents have never lied to me. I tell them they are wrong, that my parents would not leave me. They assure me that they left and I am staying here with them. They start asking more questions but in my mind I am thinking maybe I was so bad that they didn’t want me anymore. These girls are probably joking, my parents are coming back. Then I start thinking that my parents put me back up for adoption. I answered the girl’s questions but I was in shock, and disbelief. I remember having to be strip searched. I took my clothes off in the bathroom, they searched my clothes and they made me bend down. I put my clothes back on.

One of the girls grabbed the back of my pants and lead me to a room with lots of kids flapping their arms all crazy like. I got introduced to the group, they responded with a loud Hi Shanna, We love you Shanna! They sat me down in the first chair. I thought about my parents the rest of the day hoping they would pick me up at the end of the day and I would be a changed kid. The evening time came and they all started to get ready to go somewhere. I didn’t know where I was going. I was belt looped again and taken to a car, it was then I learned I had one old comer, her name was M. [named withheld. ed] and she was fixing to turn of age to walk out of the program in a few days. She lived 2 hours away from the building in the country. All the way home she went over rules, the chain of command, the 12 steps and how to write a moral inventory. The first night we got to her house, I got to take a shower. After my 5 minute shower, I was allowed to brush my hair one time brushing it straight down. I did not have any clothes so I wore something of hers and washed my clothes I had worn that day. When she took a shower, I had to put both my hands on her leg so that she new I was still there.

The next day I remember everyone was getting ready for the Christmas open meeting. We hung Christmas stuff everywhere. That day I was called into a room with a male doctor. He explained to me that He was going to do a pap smear and asked if I ever had one done, I said, "no." He told me, "I am going to look in your vagina and take some samples." I told him, "I don’t want to." He explained, "You can take your clothes off, get on the table and spread your legs or I have 5 guys right outside that door that will come in and hold you down so I can get it done!", I gave in and did what the man wanted. I cried while I laid there with my legs spread, I could hear him breathing and making those stupid sounds, sounds like my brother made while he was having his sexual experiments with me. In group that day my old comer got stood up and confronted because I had polish still on from the day I came in. I thought they were so mean to her. They yelled and griped her out for like 30 minutes. She tried to tell them that she did not have any polish remover.

That night I was under the covers crying. It was Christmas Eve and I wanted to be home. M. asked me if I was crying and I said, "yes." She told me, "come here" and I did. She held me close to her as I slept throughout Christmas Eve night snuggled in her arms. The next day we woke early and I remember sitting on the couch, with M. next to me. M.'s family was all opening presents. The mother leans over to me and gives me a plastic cup with a lid. I opened it and it had gummy bears inside. She said I am sorry but I didn’t have time to go out and get you anything". I said, "That’s fine, I like gummy bears, thank you”. I don’t remember if we went to the Straight building on Christmas day but I do remember that some of us first phasers got to open presents from our parents at the building. We got to open presents one at a time. If we got bras or panties we had to show them to the guys side and the guys had to show us the new underwear they got. Thank goodness my mother did not give me any underwear. I remember I got sweat pants and sweatshirts. We were not allowed to have any symbols or lettering on our clothes. My mother did a good job with getting only things I was allowed to have but I guess I would not know because they go through everything before you get it, so no presents are wrapped.

When Christmas was over things at Straight got more serious. To get to go pee I had to hold my hand out and wait for the highest phaser to come ask me what I want. I could only ask for something between raps. After the upper phaser decided they wanted to take you to go pee, they grab you by the back of the pants and take you to the corner of the group where someone was standing to guard anyone from leaving without permission, they would raise their hand and if you was lucky, the staff would ask the upper phaser what you wanted and the upper phaser would say bathroom. If you were lucky, the phaser would get to escort you to the bathroom. When we went potty we had to be watched at all times. A little embarrassing but at least we got to go pee. Having a bowel movement during the day at the building did not happen. There was not enough time. At the host home we packed a sack lunch every morning peanut butter and jelly is what we made. Because we lived 2 hours away from the building, we had to get up at 4am.  At night we got what was called keyed in, an alarm on the outside of the door and on the windows and on the closet door. The higher phasers had to sleep by the windows and doors. The parent would turn the alarm on when we were all in the room. In the room we were only allowed to sleep with a shirt, panties, one pillow, a blanket, a sheet, and a mattress on the floor. My last night with M. we had another 5th phaser stay with us, we got keyed in and M. asked if I was listening so she could talk about me without talking behind my back. I said yes. They started talking about how I was to young to be in a place like Straight. She said that they put her with a new intake to try and make her stay in the program but it wasn’t going to stop her from leaving when she turns the age to be able to leave. Her birthday was the next day.
The next day I got a new host home. I would not see my clothes and brush for about 4 days. Day after day they would stand me up in group and ask me what drugs I had done. I would tell them, "pot and alcohol" they would laugh. They would ask," what else did you do?" I would say, "nothing," They would laugh and get right in my face, nose to nose and yell at me, "nobody comes in here and tells the truth about what drugs they have done."  They asked me, "Have you done acid?"  I said, "no" they asked, "Have you done LSD?"  I said," I don’t know" they asked, "how would you not know?"  and I said while crying, "cause I dunno what LSD is." They all laughed. I obeyed the rules and cried every time I stood up in group, I worked hard to be able to earn TALK. Talk is where after open meeting you get to talk to your family about what you have done and what you are sorry for.

Every morning we would get up, get dressed while an upper phaser watched, brushed our teeth and brushed our hair straight down. When we were all ready to go, the upper phaser would grab the back of our pants (belt looped) and we would go to the car. Inside the car, the upper phaser would take her leg and go over and under our leg so we could not get out of the car. We were not allowed to look outside the car on the way to the building. We made no stops until we were at the building. We would be placed into the time out rooms first thing in the morning. We would be packed inside but we still had to sit up straight and Indian style. We were not allowed to talk until the person guarding the time-out door would call on you and you had to be motivating (flapping your arms). Once we got to all get out of the time out room, it was nice to get out of that room, its like getting out of a sauna; the air feels cool and fresh when you walk out. We sat in our blue chairs with our backs straight and off the chair, our hands on your knees and feet flat on the floor. I had to look forward and when someone got called on to speak I had to look at the person. At lunch, we got our lunch passed down to us and ate it while sitting straight up in our blue chair. We didn’t get to sit at a table. We also got to go pee at lunch time. Sometimes we were not allowed to go if they were running short on time. It really sucked when we were on our period and we had put our last maxi pad on before we left in the morning and now we had to sit in it till we go to the host home. After lunchtime we had raps all day. In the evening we would line up heel to toe, my face would be in the persons hair in front of me, sometimes it was gross smelling the sweat in their hair. We got belt looped and taken out to the cars. On the way home we wrote our MI and would go over it with our old comer once we got to the host home. We would try and avoid getting close to the families TV because we were not allowed to hear it. We would eat dinner and start taking our 5 minute showers, it always smelled bad cause someone would be pooping while another in the shower at times we had 6 girls in the bathroom cause we were all on first phase. After our showers we would go to the bedroom, get keyed in and went to sleep.
Once when we had girls rap, we talked about the first time we ever had sex. I had mentioned that I had done sexual things with my brother when I was 9 years old. They arranged a meeting with my family and I. We talked about it and Staff decided that it was all OK cause my brother was just experimenting.

I wish everyone new the feeling of being able to stand up in open meeting and yell across the room, "COMING HOME!" That’s what I got to do when I earned phase 2. I ran to my parents across the room. That night I got to stay at the hotel with my parents. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and my mom was just staring at me. I was allowed to be by myself, but I knew just one mistake could send me back to 1st phase so I was so very careful not to think badly or make a mistake. When I made 3rd phase, I put in request to go back to school, my request was denied, so I put in a request to volunteer at a nursing home close by and they said yes. Everyday I would go to the Straight building and off to the nursing home for the day. I had a lot of fun with the elderly people. I would sit and talk to them and I would polish their nails, brush their hair, push them in the wheelchairs; It was a relief to get out of the building. My friend V. decided to put in to work at the nursing home too. She started working with me, one day I was polishing nails and asked her if she wanted to help, she said that we were not allowed to polish nails because we could get high off of the polish. My heart sank, I knew I screwed up and I would be sent back down to 1st phase. I decided to run away rather than have to deal with getting set back to 1st phase.

The next day I went up to the nursing home and tried to call a friend I had in New Mexico. He was at school. I took off from the nursing home and walked down some rail road tracks, I came across a little house. Some people took me in and gave me a sandwich and water. I began walking some more, I came across some construction workers, I asked one if they new of a place I could stay for the night, one went to go get someone that new English, I asked that man if he new of a place, He said his uncle probably could. He drove me to his uncles little apartment in down town Dallas. This little apartment had nothing. I looked in the refrigerator and I saw a pan with old beans. I started messing with the radio on the counter in the kitchen, changing it to an English channel. He came up behind me and placed his hands on my stomach and started rubbing me, I grabbed his hands and threw them off and said, "Who the fuck do u think you are?" He told me, "You leave tomorrow!" The next day I used his shower. I was scared because the bathroom had no ceiling, I could see the pipes. I went to the grocery store, I was hungry at this time. I stole some yogurt and a spoon out of a box and security guard caught me. The police came and took me to the police station, I told them where my uncle Roy lived and they took me to his house. He said they wanted me back in Straight I had no where to live so I might as well go back and they took me back up to Straight.

I was back on 1st phase and every staff member that came in looked at me and laughed. I then decided that it was no use in trying to be perfect for these people. I will never be good enough to complete their program. I then became a misbehavior. I started carving on my arms, They would bleed and I would make pictures on the chair in front of me with the blood. Staff would take me in the bathroom and poor rubbing alcohol all over my bloody arms and tell me that, "We have to keep the cuts clean. The staff began to say no all the time for my bathroom break.  Sometimes others would try and make me sit up by pushing knuckles into my back, or try to make me put my hands on my knees. I would push their arm away from me and I would end up on the floor restrained by other kids, This would go on throughout the day. They would take their knee and lean in hard right above my knee, the pain was hard to take, I started banging my head on the concrete floor as hard as I could. My head would start feeling numb and the pain in my body would leave for a few seconds. I would be restrained on the floor for hours at a time, I would pee on myself. When they would let me get up, I remember how much it hurt to bend my knees and elbows. One time I remember being held down by a bunch of guys in the time out room. Mr. D. comes in with a rag and puts it over my mouth. I remember struggling to breathe. My body became limp and I could not move anything. Mr. D. says," She should be out for a few hours, but ya'll still need to watch her." I could still hear and see but I could not move my eyes or any part of my body. The guys that had just got done restraining me started talking about masturbating. In the end I spent most of my time in the time-out room. Sometimes when the door was open to the time out room, they would have a boy watch me at the door. The boy is not allowed to talk to me in fact he would just stare straight ahead like he was in group. He would just be guarding the time out room door so I would not get out. I would get my face right in front of his and say Howdy! You know you want to talk to me. I could not see anything in those eyes. It’s a blank stare. I would dance, make farting noises with my mouth, I would do tons of stuff to try and get him to crack a smile. He would never smile.

One day staff comes into the time out room and tells me that I have to go to the hospital to get pictures of my brain and that my parents are going to take me. I went with my parents they said nothing in the car. I think they feared that I would run, but I had no place to go and they took me to Presbyterian hospital in Dallas. I find out that I was not going back to Straight until I finish their program. The lady that did my intake into that hospital was scared when she looked at my arms I could see the fear in her eyes, she had to document every cut she counted 54 cuts. She asked me, "How do you feel about all this?" and I said I was angry because I do not want to stay" She asked what I felt like doing and I said, "I want to pick this table up and throw it." She asked why I don’t do it and I said, "because you seem like a nice lady and you don’t deserve me to be rude like that." I was scared that this new place would be worse than Straight. As I looked around I saw a TV on, I asked if I was allowed to watch it, They gave me a funny look and said yes. The first week I was on suicide watch so I had to sleep on the floor next to the nurse’s station. I was allowed to talk to anyone I wanted. I could use the phone. I felt unworthy of these things I was getting. I saw other kids acting out and they still were allowed to watch TV, and use the phone. I did silly things like turned all my furniture upside down and my roommate and I laughed. Staff would tell me I had to put it back the right way. One day I took aqua fresh toothpaste and pasted news papers all over my walls. They asked me why I did it and I said I was tired of seeing the blue walls. My last day at the mental ward, I over heard the doctor talking, he said that other than the abuse your daughter had at Straight, she is a typical healthy child with a chemical imbalance in her brain, all teenage children have an imbalance due to the hormone changes. My parents sat me down and went over rules I would have when I get home. I had rules like I had to go to an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab called PDAP and Church every Sunday. They also asked me if I wanted the family to move to Dallas. I didn’t care. I was tired and just wanted to go home. I was unsure if I was really going home.

When I got home, I did not know what to do with myself. I asked my mother if I could go to the bathroom. She told me that I don’t have to ask. I sat in my room, looking around. I now had a bed, with frame, drawers for my few things. My parents had thrown out most of my stuff. I sat on the bed waiting for them to come tell me dinner was ready. I would eat, then go back to my room, sit on my bed and wait for 8pm to come so I could get ready for bed. I would get up early in the morning, get ready for the day, make sure my bed was made and everything was perfect. I dint have anything else to do. Going outside was very hard for me to do. Soon school started and I had to repeat the 8th grade. School was the last thing on my mind now. I just wanted my family to want me. I went to PDAP. I got friends at PDAP. PDAP started to be like a family to me. My parents had taken in another Girl who was a year younger than I she was a straight A student and was perfect in their eyes but behind my parents back she was using drugs and she even got a disease called syphilis. I got blamed for a lot of things she did, I was angry and jealous. I knew if I did something horrible that they would send me away again. Nothing could be as bad as Straight, so I started stealing from stores. I told my friends that I wanted to get caught, and I did. But when I got caught, they didn’t do anything. Two years after Straight I got pregnant by a 19 yr. old boy. The father of the baby wanted me to get and abortion. My father wanted me to get an abortion and my mother wanted me to give it up for adoption. I told them all that I was keeping it. They thought I was nuts. How was I going to support the baby? I didn’t know but I did know that this little baby inside me was going to love me and want me. This baby was going to depend on me to give it everything it needs and wants and I was determined I was going to do just that! My mother took me aside when I was 16 and 6 months pregnant and said, "We don't know weather to treat you like an adult or child, so it is best if you just go ahead and leave."

I moved into my boyfriend’s grandparent’s garage with my boyfriend. He got a job in the oil field and got us an apartment. After 17 hours of labor the baby was lacking oxygen. The father of the baby did not want me to have a c-section and would not allow my parents into the room. My mother told the doctor, "My daughter is still a minor and my insurance is what is paying for this delivery so doctor, you take that baby out now!" I had an emergency c-section. She was a very healthy baby girl. After she was born, I didn’t have anyone to take care of her when I went to school and I was two years behind already so I dropped out of school. Her father and I didn’t work out well. He sold all my stuff and sold my car and we moved across Texas and lived in a pop-up camper in his uncle’s back yard. He was abusive, one day I got mad at him and I refused to talk, He pumped up a BB gun and placed it to the side of my head and asked me," Now are you going to talk, or do I have to pull the trigger?  I would also have episodes of freaking out and fits of rage some say I had post dramatic stress syndrome.  When I left him, he said, " If you don’t make any trouble about the car I sold than I wont try and get custody of our child.” I got depressed and I tried to commit suicide by slashing my wrist. I went to a mental hospital. Doctors put me on Prozac. At 19 yrs old I got my GED. PDAP told me that I did not have a drug or alcohol problem so I was not welcomed to go to the closed meetings anymore. I was crushed. PDAP was my family. If I am not and alcoholic than what's wrong with me?  I then parked my car in a storage unit and waited to die from carbon monoxide poisoning. I ended up back into the mental hospital.

My parents were a great help. For a while, my mother would take care of my daughter on the weekends so I could go out and have fun. I would go on dates and shoot some pool. I had my apartment and what I could not pay for, my mother would make up the difference. I was dating a man who was head over heels for me. He would do anything for me. I moved him in to my apartment and then found out he was molesting my baby. I contacted the police and kicked him out. I felt like a failure as a mother. Soon after the apartments changed owners and they pushed my rent up by $200. I could not afford it and had to move back in with my parents. I was very depressed I placed my fathers gun to my head. I dunno how or why but I turned the gun just far enough that the bullet went into the wall and I busted my eardrum. I ended back up into the mental ward.

I was desperate to get out of my parents house. I soon had another boyfriend. He was very quiet and he got transferred with his job out to Arizona and he took me with him. We lost our apartment in Tempe Arizona so I asked my parents if they could take care of my daughter during the summer, they agreed. I wanted to make things work with this man and I figured if I worked and he worked, we could get on our feet and get my daughter back. School was fixing to start and I still was not ready for my daughter to come live with me. My parents would not take care of my daughter any longer. They said," We have raised our children and we do not want to raise anymore!" They sent her to her father’s house. She was only 5 years old. Her father was married and had a few kids of his own at this point.

At age 25 I thought maybe finding my biological mother would help me. I went to court and opened my file. I found my biological brother first. He said he would tell or mother that I am around. I waited over a week for her to call. I kept calling. I was excited. I wanted to see her. Finally she called and we arranged to meet. We spent a day together and she told me that my father was dead. We met again a few days before Christmas. She wanted to know the name of the judge that released my file so that she could complain. She said they were not supposed to open the file. I was crushed. She told me that I came into her life and I brought up her past. I then realized that she didn’t want me around. I left and never talked to her again.

I got married to my boyfriend and yet again, I get a man who is abusive. I was a nurses aid and one of my patients was an ordained minister so he married us in his apartment one evening. We moved back to Midland Tx. I got my baby back. He still would not pay child support for another 2 years. I left my abusive husband after a year of marriage I refused to move back into my parents so I lived in the women’s shelter.

I am 31 now and married to a wonderful man and we have 2 children together. I think of suicide often and still have episodes of freaking out. I try my best to not seclude myself from the world. I can not keep a job and I have not lived in one place for more than two years since my nightmare started.  I try and have as much fun in life as I can for my children's sake. My mother has foster children now and she has apologized to me for the things that have happened and she and I are very close. My uncle has apologized also for not intervening when I came to him when I ran away from Straight. Sometimes I feel watched. Other times I will do the same things over and over again, like locking the door. I live my life in fear. I just recently realized how abused I was in Straight. I hope I can get past this someday and live a more free life.